Is humanity really hoping for a solution? There are many factions in today’s world content with retribution. If the sins of the father rest with the son, we will always feel the need to blame others. If we choose such a path, our children and grandchildren will continue to feel guilt for things that generations long dead are guilty of. Is that the picture we hope to paint for future generations? Do we really intend to perpetuate such imbalance? If so, for how long? When is enough, enough?
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
~Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
We can never hope to atone for every wrong committed by those before us. Such an arrangement perpetuates a cycle of retribution, the result of which is continual demands of more indemnity by one group after the other. Further, the fact is that we have little if any control over the life we are born into. It is our job, then, to do the best we can with what were are given and strive to rise above the obstacles before us. Therefore, the best way to atone for the past is to learn from the mistakes made, and move forward into a bright new future where every generation strives to improve the life of their own family, community, nation, and world. The result is progress for both the individual and the collective.
However great the turmoil, the period into which humanity is moving will open to every individual, every institution, and every community on earth unprecedented opportunities to participate in the writing of the planet’s future. “Soon”, is Bahá’u’lláh’s confident promise, “will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.”
~Bahá’í International Community (Who Is Writing the Future?)
Let’s make a conscious decision to give our children a clean slate to build upon. Let’s internalize the Golden Rule, teach our children to treat all people as we wish to be treated, and restore true equality in one generation. There’s a reason the Golden Rule is reiterated in every Dispensation. Kindness equals power, the power to affect the lives of others, an infinite power that each one of us possess. Such power is accessible to every human being, every moment of our existence. It seems that the Golden Rule is the Golden Rule for this very reason. It is the key to touching hearts.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
~Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968)
Coming of Age
Where do we go from here? Do we keep fighting like children or are we finally entering a stage of maturity? We are all created in the image of God. This does not pertain to one segment of the population, but all of us. Yet, we’re all so different.
At all times I do supplicate to the divine Kingdom to make thy heart a pure, clear and polished mirror, facing the most glorious Kingdom … that the pictures of the Supreme Concourse may be printed in it, and this is exactly what was meant in the Bible by this text: “Let us create man after our own image and likeness.”
~Abdu’l-Baha (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas, VIII)
Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood takes effort. An internal effort. For example, bringing ourselves to account each day for our own thoughts and deeds and striving to improve our own inner life and character. We may not be in a position to control everything, but we can control how we act or react in any given situation.
Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being ‘perfect …’ and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy. If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time.
~Shoghi Effendi (Living the Life)
As we come of age, let’s transcend perpetual retribution, increase our faith in humanity, outstrip obstacles facing our own circumstances, personify the Golden Rule, perfect our inner lives and private character, and seek to find that ever-elusive balance. After all, balance is a result of maturity, and maturity is a prerequisite to equality, justice, unity, and peace.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, elucidating this fundamental verity, has written: “All created things have their degree or stage of maturity. The period of maturity in the life of a tree is the time of its fruit-bearing…. The animal attains a stage of full growth and completeness, and in the human kingdom man reaches his maturity when the light of his intelligence attains its greatest power and development…. Similarly there are periods and stages in the collective life of humanity. At one time it was passing through its stage of childhood, at another its period of youth, but now it has entered its long-predicted phase of maturity, the evidences of which are everywhere apparent…. That which was applicable to human needs during the early history of the race can neither meet nor satisfy the demands of this day, this period of newness and consummation. Humanity has emerged from its former state of limitation and preliminary training. Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moral standards, new capacities. New bounties, perfect bestowals, are awaiting and already descending upon him. The gifts and blessings of the period of youth, although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of its maturity.”
~Shoghi Effendi (The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh)
In part four of this series I will discuss how the principles of balancing the material and the spiritual, approaching life with humility, the independent investigation of truth, transcendence of retribution, and humanity’s coming of age lay the bedrock for America to confront racism.